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FM 2410 widening project must remain a priority

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It’s likely that many Killeen-area drivers have had their fill of roadwork on the area’s highways.

With the ongoing project to widen U.S. Highway 190 from four to six lanes and the related Rosewood overpass construction, there has been no shortage of lane closures, concrete barriers and reduced speed limits.

In the midst of all this high-profile construction, a smaller project seems to have been overlooked — at least by one funding entity.

The project in question is the widening of a half-mile stretch of Farm-to-Market 2410 in Harker Heights from two to five lanes, from Ann Boulevard to Commercial Drive. The $4.5 million project is in conjunction with the widening of the FM 2410 bridge over U.S. 190.

Harker Heights officials hoped to receive $3.5 million in Category 7 funding from the Killeen-Temple Metropolitan Planning Organization to go along with the $1 million the city budgeted, but instead received just more than $575,000. The city would be required to match that amount at 20 percent.

The project is important for several reasons.

First, the FM 2410 bridge experiences heavy traffic daily, with an average of 28,000 cars heading north in the morning and 15,000 southbound vehicles each afternoon.

Second, traffic on FM 2410 already bottlenecks at the western entrance to the Market Heights shopping center, especially on weekends. Adding lanes would alleviate the problem considerably.

Third, following the completion of the Rosewood Overpass, the influx of traffic onto FM 2410 likely will be significant. Unless FM 2410 is widened to accommodate the increase, motorists will encounter a potentially dangerous bottleneck.

Finally, it’s imperative that area residents have safe, well-designed thoroughfares on which to travel. The two-lane stretch of FM 2410 north of the U.S. 190 bridge no longer meets those criteria.

It’s not clear why the city received only partial funding for the project from KTMPO, while five other area road projects received the full amount requested. But now the city must consider its options.

One possibility is to spend the money awarded and have the city match it to construct a left turn from FM 2410 onto Highland Oaks, at a cost of $500,000.

The second possibility — one that the city is exploring — is seeking additional funding directly from TxDOT to complete the FM 2410 widening project.

The third option would be to switch the Category 7 funds — with KTMPO’s approval — to a project to re-engineer the FM 2410/Stillhouse Lake Road interchange, where two large commercial developments will soon break ground.

All these options have merit, but the FM 2410 widening project seems to be the most pressing.

At a recent council meeting, the project received widespread support from businesses along the roadway.

One business manager said he saw an average of one to two accidents per week at Ann Boulevard and FM 2410. He also said drivers often cut through parking lots to avoid the light, and others swing out onto the shoulder to get around drivers waiting to turn left.

FM 2410 often experiences a significant backup of southbound vehicles waiting to cross the U.S. 190 bridge. Widening the roadway to five lanes would allow traffic to queue up in a more orderly fashion.

Considering public safety, traffic congestion and ease of access, the widening project is not merely a wish-list item; it’s a must-have.

The KTMPO nomination form lists the project’s start date of October 2014, with a one-year construction time line.

With the Rosewood overpass project scheduled to be completed in fall 2015, the timing of the FM 2410 project is critical. It’s important to identify the necessary funding quickly and get the project started in the coming 12 months.

As with many of the current road projects, this one is sure to inconvenience drivers and business owners alike.

But in the long term, it will be well worth the trouble.

Contact Dave Miller at dmiller@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7543